Roy Chitwood Article        

The people who accomplish more than the average person don't have any more stamina than the rest of us.

If you were to question them, you would find a common denominator: They prepare a written plan each day to make the most of their time and then plod along, task after task, until each job has been done. As with so many professionals today, the demands on the time of salespeople are great. However, the rewards can be great as well.

To balance your sales career and personal life while keeping your personal objectives in mind, picture your allotment of time in terms of a

"Wheel of Activity." 

Planning Planning is at the hub of the wheel and is the most vital aspect of every salesperson's approach - both to selling and living. In planning, decide how you will use each hour of your precious time - from outlining the objective of each sales call to what you're going to read or study on a particular day to continue your lifelong sales education. With planning at the hub, the "Wheel of Activity" has five additional parts, or spokes, which dictate the effective use of time: prospecting, selling, service, personal and study.

Prospecting While few would say that prospecting is their favorite sales activity, without prospects, you won't have many customers. Therefore prospecting is essential to successful selling. As with any essential activity, it's necessary to discipline one's self in order to accomplish the amount of prospecting necessary for success. What separates true sales professionals from the mediocre is their habit of doing the necessary things, even when they dislike them. It's important to have a routine in place for prospecting, like designating an hour each day during which you make 30-40 cold calls. It may seem daunting but if you commit to this practice, you can limit the displeasure to only one hour per day and make headway with your prospects, which will be rewarding and make you glad you committed to following through. Set aside time every day for prospecting and make it an ongoing activity - a part of every day, every week. Prospecting is a salesperson's gold mine.

Selling It doesn't do much good to have ample prospects if you don't follow up. That's the essence of selling: finding the people to sell and selling the people you find. Selling relates directly to the hub of your wheel - planning. Every industry has its own prime or "golden" hours, during which you're most successful at contacting and meeting with prospects. Spend this time only selling. Shelve less productive tasks, such as writing reports or paperwork, until later. To determine when the best times are for you to make your sales calls, evaluate how much of your day is actually spent selling, when your most productive hours are to sell each day and what adjustments can be made to daily activities that will allow for more time to sell.

Service Remember your customers and they'll remember you. Closing a sale should be the opening of a relationship. This requires ongoing communication and interaction. To regularly interact with your clients between sales, spend 10 to 15 minutes daily calling one or two customers or clients for the sole purpose of learning how they are doing. These small deposits will yield tremendous future rewards.

Personal According to The Boston Globe newspaper, Americans work longer hours than the citizens of any other industrialized nation and sleep, on average, only six hours per night (as opposed to the recommended eight). Juggling the demands of work and home life can leave many of us feeling overworked and exhausted, to say the least. That's why it's important to schedule time for fun and relaxation. This means finding time for yourself and loved ones as well as finding time off from work to relax and recharge your batteries. More than 25 percent of employees say they don't take all of the vacation time they're entitled to because of job demands. Are you one of them? Some salespeople find it difficult to relax when they know how much has to be done. They feel guilty being away; thus, personal interests and time with family and friends are sacrificed. If this goes on for too long, the result can be burnout and fatigue However, when you plan recreation time just as you do work time, you'll relieve feelings of guilt and be able to relax more fully knowing that work responsibilities are handled.

Study School is never out for the salesperson. A true sales professional is one who has committed to lifelong education and self-improvement. If the average salesperson committed to reading only 15 minutes each day, he or she would read more than 18 books annually. How much more effective could you become by committing yourself to 15 minutes of educational time each day? While the "Wheel of Activity" seems simple enough to implement, we all have the tendency to procrastinate. Wasting time is worse than wasting money; wasted money can be re-earned but wasted time is gone forever. We procrastinate about staying in front of prospects, servicing our clients, planning our own personal time and allowing time for study. Whatever aspects of our professional or personal lives we enjoy the least - or at least can't seem to justify making a priority - we put off until "someday." Often, someday never comes.

Each of the five activities on your wheel is vital.

Avoiding activities diminishes your ability to succeed. Professional salespeople form the habit of doing all the things necessary for success even though those may be things they dislike doing. How can you form the habit of doing the things necessary for your success?  

  • Recognize how completing the tasks you dislike helps you accomplish your goals.
  • Prioritize the tasks.
  • Set aside a specific time to perform the tasks.
  • Reward yourself when you have accomplished your goals.

The bottom line is that disciplined use of time pays off. When you incorporate the "Wheel of Activity" into your professional and personal life, you will become more effective. You will find each day that you are becoming happier and more successful - as a sales professional and as a person.    

Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.